Frozen Freshness: Enjoying Local Tomatoes Year-Round

September 1, 2013

By Anna Varriano

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For those of you who follow Perfect Resonance on Facebook, you know that I’ve posted a lot of photos of my veggie garden this season. I love being able to grow my own vegetables, not only for the obvious nutritional benefits, but also for the enjoyment I get from spending time in the garden.

For me, there’s no better way to start the day than spending some peaceful time in the early morning connecting with nature in my own backyard.

Because I’m Italian, it’s no surprise that much of my garden space is devoted to tomatoes. Even though I’m eating tomatoes at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, my tomato plants are so prolific this year (thanks to healthy seedlings and some gardening tips from local Master Gardener Tom Marcantonio), I can’t keep up with ways to serve fresh tomatoes!

There’s no way I want to waste a single one of these beauties, so I’m preserving whatever I don’t use fresh right now in order that I may enjoy their vine-ripened goodness in sauces, stews, soups, and more, throughout the snowy, sub-zero months to come.

Yes, they are coming…

Canning & Freezing Tomatoes Just Like My Mom and Dad

My mom and dad always canned tomatoes, and I did it for a couple of years too. It was pretty labour intensive and time consuming, so I’ve adopted a hassle-free preserving method that suits most of my tomato-including recipes just fine, and that is to simply freeze them whole. All you need are: whole local vine-ripened tomatoes, freezer bags or freezer-storage containers, and most importantly, freezer space.

My Quick 5-Step Process

Step 1: Pick or buy vine-ripened, local tomatoes.

Step 2: Rinse them in the sink under running water to get all the dirt off.

Step 3: Dry them thoroughly, and cut out the core, as well as any bruises or spots/scars (basically, cut out anything you wouldn’t want to eat if you were going to eat them fresh).

Step 4: Place the tomatoes on wax paper or parchment paper lined cookie trays (or any other freezer-friendly dish or tray that will fit in your freezer) so that they are not touching and place the trays (with the tomatoes on them!) in the freezer until the tomatoes are frozen solid. Depending on the size of the tomatoes, they should be frozen in 3 or 4 hours. You can leave them overnight too.

Step 5: Transfer the frozen tomatoes into freezer bags or containers, seal well, label the freezer bags/containers with the date, and immediately return them to the freezer and store until you need them.

Enjoying Frozen Tomatoes

Whole frozen tomatoes should keep for up to a year, but it’s best to use them within 6 months or so. It’s also best to thaw the tomatoes out before using them. Simply place them in a bowl until they are completely thawed, then drain off any excess water.

Be aware that frozen tomatoes lose their texture, so when you thaw them, they’ll be pretty mushy. They may also lose a bit of their flavour, but overall, they’re perfectly fine for use in cooked dishes that call for some tomatoes. If you don’t want to use the skin, just run lukewarm water over the frozen tomato and you should be able to pull the skin off pretty easily.

Why Bother Freezing Tomatoes?

Why do I bother doing this when I can buy tomatoes at the grocery store all year round?

Unfortunately, since fully vine-ripened tomatoes are quite delicate, many commercial operations harvest them when they’re still green so that they can be more easily packaged and shipped. These green tomatoes are exposed to ethylene gas to turn them red, so they look ripe without actually having gone through a natural ripening process which allows them to reach their full nutritional value. That’s one of the reasons I freeze my own tomatoes. In fact, at certain times of the year, it’s likely that store bought canned tomatoes will be higher in nutritional value than the fresh tomatoes available in the produce department.

There’s nothing better than eating locally and in season! Tomatoes are among the easiest vegetables to grow, so if you’ve never tried it, consider planting some next year. They do very well in pots if yard space is an issue, and remember that they do like full sun.

I recently posted my Tomato and Basil soup recipe on my Facebook page. It’s delicious! To learn about the amazing health benefits of tomatoes, why people with arthritic conditions may have to avoid them, and one of my favourite ways to enjoy them, check out my September 2008 Tip of the Month.

Yours in health,

Anna

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